The Ticket

Nevada election decided by luck of the draw

Holly Bailey
The Ticket

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It's no secret that Nevada is home to some unusual politics.

After all, it's the only state in the country where a political debate over banning prostitution might actually become a pivotal issue in the upcoming 2012 presidential campaign.

But even this seems unusual for the state: On Thursday, two candidates a deadlocked city council primary race in North Las Vegas, a suburb of Sin City, settled the contest by drawing cards.

As the Las Vegas Sun's Paul Takahashi reports, candidates Melinda Meisenheimer and Tanya Flanagan tied for second place in last month's Ward 2 council primary, receiving 328 votes apiece. Yet only one candidate could advance to June's general election.

Since neither candidate requested a recount, local officials were forced to adhere to an obscure 1965 state law, which says tied races in the state must be determined by drawing lots. The rule, which hasn't been exercised in at least 14 years, usually means candidates pick cards out of a standard playing deck. The person who draws the highest card wins.

On Thursday, election officials set up one of Vegas' ubiquitous green felt card tables in City Hall, where the candidates nervously positioned themselves before a sealed single deck of cards.

The operation was quite elaborate. William Robinson, the city's mayor pro tem, broke the seal on the deck and removed the joker cards. David Hernandez, who teaches casino management at a local college, shuffled the cards. Gerald Schaffer, a former Clark County official with no ties to the city, cut the deck. And Hernandez fanned the cards out, so candidates could choose their own card.

Flanagan drew first—because her name came first alphabetically. Her card: a five of diamonds. Meisenheimer bested her, drawing a king of diamonds. And just like that, a simple turn of luck earned Meisenheimer a spot on June's general election ballot.

"We made history," Meisenheimer told reporters afterwards. "This really shows people, North Las Vegas, Vegas, anywhere, that every vote does count."

(Photo of Meienheimer and Flanagan: Julie Jacobson/AP)

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